New Work

We are pushing the boundaries of opera with opportunities for artists to find new ways of working and audiences to enjoy cutting-edge work.

We seek to explore every art form in opera, from music and voice to the written word. By bringing together artists, musicians and creative technicians from different media to create experimental new work, we have developed an active laboratory for academic research and provide learning resources for artists to explore fresh ideas.

New in 2015: Two Weeks of Autistic Bedtimes

Inspired by the June 2012 DARE sandpit on the topic of Music and Neurodiversity, Professor Stuart Murray secured HEIF and Opera North funding to write a new opera conceived from within and autistic perspective.

The opera, composed by DARE Fellow Cheryl Frances-Hoad with libretto by Stuart, was work-shopped with an invited audience in the Howard Assembly Room in July 2014.

Listen to an interview with Professor Stuart Murray about the project.

DARE partnership with the Royal Northern College of Music

Student composers from the RNCM worked in pairs with student writers from the University of Leeds and mentors from Opera North to create an aria.  Their work was premiered in the Howard Assembly Room on 4 December 2012 and performed at the RNCM on 28 March 2013.

2012 Amy’s Last Dive 


Created by DARE PhD student and librettist Adam Strickson, and DARE Fellow Cheryl Frances-Hoad, this new opera looks back at the tempestuous life of pilot Amy Johnson and explores how her racy and risky journey relates to modern day ambitions.

The collaboration,  an association with iMove, Yorkshire’s Cultural Programme for London 2012, features singer Natalie Raybould as Amy together with students from Withernsea High School. It is being performed as part of the LUDUS Festival in June at at Bridlington Spa in July.

Cheryl Frances-Hoad, DARE Fellow in Composition

Since beginning her two-year Fellowship in 2010, Cheryl has collaborated with artists, academics and students to create exceptional new work, including: –

Five Rackets for Trio Relay

The Olympics provided the inspiration for this double piano trio composed by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, DARE Fellow in Composition , which was performed by the Lawson Trio and students from Yorkshire Young Musicians at the Howard Assembly Room on 13 March 2012.   Listen to this clip: ‘Sailing’ from Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s ‘Five Rackets’

One Life Stand

A new thirty-minute song cycle composed by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, DARE Fellow in Composition, which responds to Schumann’s Women’s Lives and Loves through a collaboration of contemporary poetry and music.  It was performed in concert by Jennifer Johnson and Joseph Middleton in the Howard Assembly Room on 11 October 2011.

As in a Waking Dream

Cheryl brought together composers from the Universities of Leeds and York to create , a collection of six new song cycles, each responding to Schumann and Chamisso’s 1840 work Frauenliebe und Leben (A Woman’s Life and Love) in varied and fascinating ways.   She also engaged internationally acclaimed singers to perform the works in the Howard Assembly Room on 23 May 2011.

DARE Digital Film Award, 2012

With the aim of showcasing emerging artistic and film-making talent, DARE launched the Digital Film Award in autumn 2012.  Inspired by the Howard Assembly Room, students think experimentally about how the deconstruction of the artform of opera might be interpreted through digital film, supported by the Opera North creative team, University specialists and professional designers and film-makers.  Shortlisted submissions will be screened publicly in the Howard Assembly Room on 4 December and on the Howard Assembly Room and University of Leeds websites.

The Gift of Pygmalion, April 2012

The Gift of Pygmalion was presented at the Gasteig Theatre in Munich on 20 April.   Directed by Dr George Rodosthenous, Lecturer in Music Theatre at the University of Leeds, with dramaturgy by Dr Duska Radosavljevic, Universityof Kent, the work  involved Pettman DARE Scholar Hugo Zanker and featured five PCI undergraduate students from the Leeds BA(Hons) Theatre and Performance  course.   “With Hugo Zanker (New Zealand) on the cello….. the ‘Gift of Pygmalion’ offers an introduction to the antinomy between art and life. The myth of Pygmalion… is reflected boldly on the sounding board of a cello that comes to life when played by Zanker” Livia Bidoli, gothicnetwork.org   This was a Knowledge Transfer project commissioned by the Cyprus Embassy in Berlin(Georgea Solomontos).

PHANTASMAGORIA – Seduction and Psychosis, October 2011

Becs Andrews, DAREFellow in Opera Related Arts 2011/12, created and presented her first work as a Fellow within the Leeds Light Night Programme. The multimedia piece performed by three artists including Pettman DARE Scholar and cellist Hugo Zanker, charted temptation, obsession and ascent into madness, inspired by Puskin’s character Ghermann.

Green Angel, January 2011

An opera for young people created by DAREPhD student Adam Strickson.

Songs at a Year’s End, March 2010

This work was commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the miner’s strike. Ian McMillan (libretto) and Hugh Nankivell (music) created a song cycle exploring the strike and its repercussions, which premiered at the Howard Assembly Room to coincide with Digging The Seam – Media And The Miners Strike 25 Years On – an international conference held at the University.

Fuse Leeds, April 2009

DARE was a key partner of the biennial contemporary music festival Fuse Leeds 09. Opera North Projects and the University worked together on new pieces including the premier of ‘Collision’, a collaboration between composer Michael Berkley and artist Kevin Laycock, with the Orchestra of Opera North. Plus associated workshops and discussions.

Leeds Light Night, October 2008

DAREparticipated in the Leeds Light Night Festival 2008, with a multi-media performance project entitled ‘A Light in the Rhubarb Shed’ on the theme of the sound associated with the growing a rhubarb by candlelight.